NJSO Edward T. Cone Composition Institute

Four emerging composers receive an unparalleled experience of six days of musical- and career-enriching sessions with industry leaders, culminating in an NJSO concert performance of their works.

The NJSO Edward T. Cone Composition Institute is an unparalleled experience for four emerging composers to hear their music performed by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and participate in six days of in-depth compositional consultations and multifaceted sessions with industry experts. The tuition-free Institute is led by Steven Mackey.

The fifth annual Cone Composition Institute was held July 9–14, 2018, in Princeton with guest conductor David Robertson. This Institute culminated in an NJSO performance of the composers’ works on July 14 at Richardson Auditorium in Princeton.

The 2018 Cone Institute composers were Jonathan Cziner, Natalie Dietterich, Aaron Hendrix and Brian Shank. View concert and composer information.

Four composers chosen to participate in the Institute will participate in daily activities that will include:

  • Rehearsals of their works with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra
  • One-on-one and group coaching sessions with Institute Director Steve Mackey and the guest conductor
  • Sessions with industry leaders, NJSO musicians and staff
  • Coaching on personal presentation, public speaking and networking skills
  • NJSO premiere of each composer’s work at a public concert at Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University


  • Must be at least 18 years old on or before July 1, 2019.
  • Must not have been selected as past participant of the Cone Composition Institute.


  1. One original composition per application using the following guidelines:
    • Composition shall not exceed 13 minutes in duration and must be an orchestral work (no concerto soloists)
    • Instrumentation may not exceed: 3‐3‐3‐3 woodwinds (including standard doublings), 4‐3‐3‐1 brass, timpani, 3 percussion, harp, 1 piano/celeste and strings.
    • Composition must have no prior professional performance.
    • Must include brief program notes or a general description of the composition.
    • Three bound copies of the score must be submitted in printed hard copy (11 x 17 in. or smaller) using a standard notation program such as Sibelius or Finale. Handwritten scores will not be accepted.
    • Scores and parts must adhere to Major Orchestra Librarians’ Association (MOLA) guidelines.
    • Audio representation of the work, such as a MIDI mock-up or a live orchestra reading, in mp3 format.
  2. One page resume
  3. One letter of recommendation

Participant Information

Cost, housing and travel information

The Institute is tuition-free and housing on the campus of Princeton University (single room with air-conditioning) and on-campus meals will be provided, if needed. If a selected composer elects not to use provided housing and meal service, no financial remuneration will be made.

Travel compensation and per diems are not offered.

Publicity material requirements for selected participants

Selected composers will be required to submit the following items by mail and email. Please do not submit these materials with the application. The NJSO reserves the right to edit submitted bios and program notes to match NJSO style.

By Email:

  • Email to: [email protected]
  • A full set of digital parts following the MOLA guidelines [pdf], with measure numbers at the beginning of each line, and up to three additional scores.
  • A bio of no more than 250 words.
  • Program notes of no more than 300 words.
  • A headshot, minimum 300 dpi, 750x750 pixels or larger.

By Mail:

Mail to: Cassandra Mueller, Artistic Operations Coordinator, NJSO, 60 Park Place, Suite 900, Newark, NJ 07102.

  • Submit a full set of hardcopy parts following the MOLA guidelines [pdf], with measure numbers at the beginning of each line, and up to three additional scores.
  • All materials must be submitted as requested above.

For more information, contact Cassandra Mueller, Artistic Operations Coordinator, at [email protected] or 973.735.1740.

Learn more about the Cone Composition Institute

Background and Benefits of Participation

The NJSO and Princeton University Department of Music are well positioned to provide emerging composers with a comprehensive Institute experience that will enhance their careers. Over years of reading sessions in which the NJSO has played through orchestral works written by Princeton University Ph.D. composition candidates, the Orchestra and its musicians are experienced in mentoring and advising student composers. Through the NJSO’s commitment to presenting new music, the Orchestra has performed works not only by the late Princeton University professor and composer Edward T. Cone, but also by composers who felt the impact of Cone’s legacy as a teacher.

Mackey—a lauded composer and William Schubael Conant Professor of Music at Princeton University—says:

“The NJSO has had a strong relationship with Princeton University composers for years, and we are excited to again partner with the Orchestra for this immersive composition institute. This program fosters emerging composing talent by preparing composers for both the creative and practical elements of composing works for orchestra.”

By the end of the Institute, participants will have gained invaluable musical and practical feedback about writing for orchestra through real-time interactions with Mackey, Faletta and NJSO musicians as well as advice from decision makers in the industry about how to get their music published and performed.

Four composers chosen to participate in the Institute will participate in daily activities that will include:

  • Rehearsals of their works, followed by small group gatherings with faculty and NJSO musicians to discuss applications and variations on the possible vs. the practical in composition.
  • One-on-one and group coaching sessions with composer Steven Mackey.
  • Sessions with industry leaders.
  • Coaching on and the opportunity to refine personal presentation and networking skills.
  • NJSO premiere of each composer’s work presented by the NJSO at a public concert at Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University.
  • Access to video recordings of small-group gatherings.

Institute Director Bio

Steven Mackey, Institute Director

Steven Mackey was born in 1956 to American parents stationed in Frankfurt, Germany. He is regarded as one of the leading composers of his generation and has composed for orchestra, chamber ensemble, dance and opera. His first musical passion was playing the electric guitar in rock bands based in northern California. He blazed a trail in the 1980s and 90s by including the electric guitar and vernacular music influence in his concert music, and he regularly performs his own works, including two electric guitar concertos and numerous solo and chamber works. He is also active as an improvising musician and performs with his band Big Farm.

Mackey’s music has been performed by leading musical institutions throughout the world, including the Los Angeles, BBC and New York philharmonics; San Francisco and Chicago symphonies; Philadelphia and Concertgebeouw orchestras and Brentano, Kronos and Arditti string quartets, among others. He has received numerous awards, including a Grammy Award in 2012 for his album Lonely Motel: Music from Slide.

About the Organizations

Princeton University Department of Music

Princeton’s Department of Music is at the epicenter of a musical culture that is broad and deep, reaching from edge to edge of the campus, from the classroom to the concert hall, into the community and from faculty-led groups to those run exclusively by students.

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra

Named “a vital, artistically significant musical organization” by The Wall Street Journal, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra embodies that vitality through its statewide presence and critically acclaimed performances, education partnerships and unparalleled access to music and the Orchestra’s superb musicians.

Music Director Xian Zhang—a “dynamic podium presence” The New York Times has praised for her “technical abilities, musicianship and maturity”—continues her acclaimed leadership of the NJSO. The Orchestra presents classical, pops and family programs, as well as outdoor summer concerts and special events. Embracing its legacy as a statewide orchestra, the NJSO is the resident orchestra of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark and regularly performs at State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick, Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, Richardson Auditorium in Princeton, Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown and bergenPAC in Englewood. Partnerships with New Jersey arts organizations, universities and civic organizations remain a key element of the Orchestra’s statewide identity.

In addition to its lauded artistic programming, the NJSO presents a suite of education and community engagement programs that promote meaningful, lifelong engagement with live music. Programs include school-time Concerts for Young People; NJSO Youth Orchestras family of student ensembles, led by José Luis Domínguez; and El Sistema-inspired NJSO CHAMPS (Character, Achievement and Music Project). NJSO musicians annually perform original chamber music programs at community events in a variety of settings statewide through the NJSO Community Partners program.

For more information about the NJSO, visit njsymphony.org or email [email protected]. Tickets are available for purchase by phone at 1.800.ALLEGRO (255.3476) or on the Orchestra’s website.

The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s programs are made possible in part by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, along with many other foundations, corporations and individual donors.

Major underwriting support for The NJSO Edward T. Cone Composition Institute is generously provided by The Edward T. Cone Foundation and Princeton University.